From education to employment

Dedicated Apprentice continues learning through the pandemic, while caring for three teenagers and disabled husband

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Lynn Sheils, from Sunderland, signed up to start her Operations Departmental Manager Apprenticeship Level 5 programme at OCS Group UK with @QubeLearning, a leading national Recruitment and Training Solutions Provider, two months into the global pandemic, unaware of the inconceivable changes that were soon to affect the planet and its occupants.

Having worked in Facilities Management on several school contracts for many years, Lynn’s last role was office-based and despite her initial enthusiasm, she missed liaising with customers face to face. Lynn’s lack of job satisfaction was taking its toll, and so she started to look for a role in July 2018 and was keen to find a position that incorporated daily interaction with other people. In August 2018 Lynn soon found a job description that looked ideal, and she felt eager to apply. She was then interviewed and shortly after, accepted the role at OCS in the Site Management team as Site Manager to one school. After two months, Lynn’s sterling capabilities were recognised, and she was promoted to Contracts Manager and charged with looking after several schools.

Regularly enrolling on internal workshops, Lynn was excited to have the opportunity to embark on an Apprenticeship, hosted by Qube Learning. Starting her Apprenticeship in May 2020, two months into the spread of Covid-19, Lynn was determined to continue the only way she knew how, with a stoic approach to get through. At work Lynn had to make sure that all her sites complied with the new government guidelines for cleaning and social distancing and keeping buildings compliant with water control etc while the buildings were only partially occupied. There were still key worker and vulnerable children attending the sites, so it was paramount that things were put in place. Lynn’s life suddenly changed; she had three teenagers needing to be home schooled and a disabled husband to take care of. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced. The demands of the children and making sure they were attending their online learning and ensuring their homework was done while keeping them motivated and making sure their mental health was not affected was tricky. She believes her patience and determination are what helped her through the last year on a personal level, but the belief of family and colleagues encouraged her to stay strong and focused, in a professional setting.

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Lynn says: ‘Managing five schools with the virus outbreak has certainly presented its difficulties and challenged me in ways I’d not expected. As an individual and working in a team, we have shown true resilience. With the support of OCS and Qube Learning, I was still able to enjoy my apprenticeship and I even managed to complete two units of a Level 5 diploma in one week during the pandemic, something my tutor had never seen in eight years. To say it has been tricky is an understatement. I could have never predicted the events that have taken place, but I have tried my best to manage heightened emotions and remain calm, across all spheres of my life. The impact of the last year on work and family life has been substantial. However, I have been fortunate enough to stay in employment, while learning, unlike many others, and I am extremely grateful for this’.

Jo Kiani, Qube Learning Tutor, says: ‘The focus for Lynn has been to drive forward a culture of learning, support and effective collaborations, and she has already encouraged two of the site managers to enrol on the Level 5 Management Apprenticeship. She really is a credit to OCS; she consistently exceeded expectations and on top of an extremely busy workload and the added challenges Covid-19 brings, Lynn meets every target agreed in between visits, and her standard of work is exceptional’.

Used to living in the moment, Lynn is now looking forward to the future, where she can move freely and start seeing more clients in person again. She hopes her apprenticeship continues to nurture her natural abilities and expand on her skill set, and she looks forward to where her learning journey will take her.

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